A nurse who contracted ebola while working in West Africa is receiving blood plasma treatment and an experimental anti-viral drug at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.
Pauline Cafferkey, a 39-year-old nurse from Glasgow, has been given convalescent plasma taken from the blood of a patient who has survived ebola – potentially from fellow nurse Will Pooley – alongside an unnamed drug, which is not yet proven to cure the disease.
She tested positive for the virus after returning to the UK on 28 December from Sierra Leone where she worked as a volunteer nurse.
“The disease has a variable course and we will know much more [about the success of the treatment] in a week’s time”
Ms Cafferkey is being cared for at the Royal Free Hospital’s high level isolation unit, the UK’s dedicated centre for treating infectious diseases, including ebola.
Dr Michael Jacobs, infectious diseases consultant at the hospital, said earlier this week that Ms Cafferkey was sitting up in bed, talking and reading following treatment.
However, he warned of the unpredictable nature of the virus and said the medical team caring for Ms Cafferkey would know much more about how successful the treatment had been by next week.
“We are giving her the very best care possible. However, the next few days will be crucial. The disease has a variable course and we will know much more in a week’s time,” he said in a statement.
Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, Dr Jacobs said that Ms Cafferkey had been involved in detailed discussions with doctors before agreeing to the treatment.
“We have been able to have some very detailed discussions with [Pauline] about the treatment – of course she’s a nurse”
He said: “We have been able to have some very detailed discussions with her about the treatment – of course she’s a nurse, a fellow professional – and we’ve been able to seek the advice of our wider network of international colleagues who work in the field as well to discuss the possibilities and options that we had.”
Public Health England said Ms Cafferkey was screened at Heathrow Airport when she arrived back in the UK, at which point she had no symptoms of a fever – one of the main indicators of the disease.
The body said she was cleared to go home from the airport after a standard series of checks were carried out, overseen by a medical consultant.
In a statement, PHE said it was now contacting all passengers who were on the same flight as Ms Cafferkey to identify any possible cases where the virus may have been passed on.
Professor Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at PHE, said: “The individual involved did not experience any symptoms consistent with the transmission of ebola, and as such, the risk that this infection will have been passed from the affected individual to others is extremely unlikely.
“However as a precaution, PHE is contacting all passengers on the flight to the UK and providing a further level of follow-up for all those in the vicinity of the passenger to ensure anyone who feels unwell undergoes a medical assessment rapidly.”